Marsalis trumpets virtues of early recognition

At only 30 years of age, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis has already been called an “elder statesman of jazz.” It is a label he disputes, saying he is simply grateful to have achieved acclaim so young.
Marsalis will perform at McCarter Theatre tonight and the following night his new jazz work will have its official premiere at Lincoln Center in New York. The work is called “In This House, On This Morning.”

Although his concert programs are sometimes decided at the last minute, there is a possibility that part of the work will be previewed in Princeton tonight. Also occurring this week is the release of a new album, entitled “Sometimes It Goes Like That,” his 21st recording for Columbia Records. Marsalis, who generally tours and performs with his septet, said in a recent telephone interview that he is now trying to focus more on composing and exploring American life through music.

“If I had commissions,“he said, “I would compose all the time.” One of the works on his new album is an extended, 37-minute piece called “Blue Interlude.”
Stemming from Marsalis’s interest in telling a story or creating personalities through the music, the work “depicts the relationship between a man and a woman,” the lovers “Sugar Cane” and “Sweetie Pie,” he said.
Playing the piano while talking on the phone in fact, Marsalis doodled at the piano throughout the entire interview he began to demonstrate.

“This theme is the man, it’s a fanfare,” he said, playing a strong chordal passage. “And this theme – this is the woman.” There are different moods, he said, while playing a blues passage. “The main theme is a ballad. The main theme comes from the woman.” He added that the work is “a contemporary romantic encounter set to rhythm and tune. It’s about two people becoming one very delicious slice of spirit without ever losing the things that make them individuals.”

The album also features compositions including, “And The Band Played On,” by trombonist Wycliffe Gordon and “The Jubilee Suite,” a long work by saxophonist Todd Williams. Both are performers on the album and in Marsalis’s group.
Marsalis, for a time, performed and recorded both jazz and classical trumpet, but at the present time is primarily a jazz performer, he said. He lives in New York, and is the son of Ellis Marsalis, now head of the jazz studies program at the University of New Orleans.
His older brother is the well-known saxophonist and, as of Monday, Tonight Show bandleader Branford Marsalis. The members of Marsalis’s present group, currently on a long tour covering most of the United States and Europe, include Wessell Anderson, alto saxophone; Todd Williams, tenor and soprano saxophones and clarinet; Wycliffe Gordon, trombone and tuba; Reginald Veal, bass; Herlin Riley, drums and Eric Reed, piano. Although jazz involves a great deal of improvisation, Marsalis emphasized that many long hours of rehearsal go into the performances.

“The language and vocabulary have to be familiar. We develop a group vocabulary, of shared information. We learn each other’s personalities. To play jazz, it’s the vocabulary you develop. We’ve been together four, five years.”
“Improvising it’s like learning how to talk. I think anyone can learn. You have a lot of freedom with improvisation, but with the freedom comes responsibility,” he explained.
“You have to know the harmony. You have to know the history of the music. You have to recreate on the horn the sound of the history.”
Marsalis said that some of his best audiences are in the United States, where he feels that interest in jazz is on the increase. “Really, there’s very little jazz left anywhere in the world. It’s a type of attitude,” he said.
“People have a pop sensibility. The media, not the people, have created this problem. Now it falls on everybody’s shoulders in this country. Education must be better.”

Marsalis said that he tries to play every night. If the group is not playing a concert, he will find somewhere to play the trumpet. “Sometimes, I am tired,” he said, “but once I get the suit on, I’m always ready to play.”

by Rena Fruchter
Source: The Central New Jersey Home News

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